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Clerk of court arrested
Authorities: McCord took $119,000
Becky McCord mug
Becky McCord

Dawson County's longtime clerk of Superior Court has been charged in connection with the theft of more than $119,000 from the county over the last five years.      

An arrest warrant, signed by Judge Lynn Aldermann of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, was issued Thursday morning for Becky McCord, 61, who has served as clerk since 1993.      

McCord, who faces one count of felony theft by taking, turned herself in to authorities about 3 p.m. this afternoon, said Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten.      

Bond has been set at $50,000. She is represented by Gainesville attorney Jeff Talley, who has not commented on the matter.   

County Manager Kevin Tanner said the county had been told McCord plans to resign today. As of late afternoon, that had not happened.   

The warrant came from the Enotah Judicial Circuit after Superior Court judges in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Dawson and Hall counties, recused themselves from the case.      

The Enotah circuit includes Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties.      

The charge stems from a Dawson County Sheriff's investigation into missing funds from clerk of court bank accounts and follows the recent arrests of a court employee and a former contract worker with the clerk’s office.       

Both were charged late last month with taking nearly $82,000 from an office account.      

The initial investigation led authorities to review an account the clerk of courts office set up with United Community Bank for fees paid to obtain passports.     

Since McCord is an elected official, the sheriff's office asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigations  to assist.      

"Our policy here has always been, that anything that involves an elected official, we ask for the assistance of the GBI," said Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.      

According to the arrest warrant, McCord, as superior court clerk, was entitled to $77,427 of fees paid to the clerk of court's office for issuing passports between 2004 and 2009.      

During that same time period, however, investigators say McCord wrote checks to herself on the account totaling more than $205,000.       

The checks were then cashed at local banks.       

According to the warrant, McCord told investigators that the passport fees had accrued into a large amount of money, since she allowed them to roll over from year to year.      

Authorities said the investigation revealed that there were no accrued or rollover funds from the fees taken in from passports between 2004 and 2009.      

Investigators have not been able to review records or bank statements between the year 2000, when the clerk of court's office first began processing passports, and 2003, because the documents are missing.     

Authorities said they are working with United Community Bank in Dawsonville to get those records.      

Local authorities expanded their probe into the missing funds to include McCord after learning two dozen checks had been written to a Dawsonville man on an escrow account the clerk of court's office set up to hold cash bonds.      

The checks were written to former contract worker Justin Disharoon, 22, by clerk of court's employee Donna Sheriff, authorities said.       

Both Sheriff, 42, and Disharoon have reportedly admitted taking nearly $82,000 from the clerk of court's office. Both have been charged with a single count of felony theft by taking.      

Sheriff, who had worked for the clerk of court's office since 1994 and most recently served as chief deputy clerk under McCord, was fired Jan. 26, according to county employment records.      

McCord's arrest warrant cites interviews with authorities during which Sheriff said McCord told her to adjust the ledger of the account in question to show it balanced.       

The warrant also states that the checks written to McCord and signed by McCord were manually typed and not generated through the clerk of court's office computer bookkeeping program for issuing checks, which caused the monthly ledgers to be unbalanced.      

McCord is currently serving her fifth term as clerk of courts. She first took office in 1993 and ran unopposed in 2008.    

In the event McCord resigns, chief deputy clerk Elaine Garrett would be appointed interim clerk, county officials said.      

Garrett, a 15-year employee of the office, was sworn in as chief deputy clerk Feb. 3 following Sheriff's dismissal.      

The last time an elected Dawson County official faced felony charges was in the early 1980s, when then Sheriff John Davis was arrested on drug-related charges during his second term of office.      

Davis served as sheriff from 1977-1983.

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